A Weekend of Celebrations: 60th Anniversary of the Trust at La Rochelle

     

As part of its on-going 60th Anniversary celebrations 3 National Trust representatives, namely Gill Honeyman, Guy Cary and Lin Goncalves attended a wonderful, and exceptionally well organised event held at La Rochelle Country House on Saturday 31ST October 2020.The documentary film, presented by Robbie Honey (see previous post), was projected on the tower wall on Friday evening, the 30th, with an almost full moon hanging in the clear sky behind the tower and a clear star-lit sky graced the evening.

Harvey and Debbie Leared have most certainly revived La Rochelle and breathed new life into every part of the property. We had a long and interesting walk around the botanical gardens and they are in pristine condition – lawns and pathways are manicured and immaculate and the old waterway is once again running through the gardens down to the dam, attracting birds and butterflies along the way.

The lovely wooden bench – tribute to The Curtain Foundation, Nick Roditi, Simon Goldberg (and others)  is well situated in a quiet and pretty spot overlooking one of the ponds. The Trust is humbled by the measure of generosity shown by Mr. Roditi to enable the NTZ to restore the orchid houses and the gardens, all of which are looking really beautiful and well tended by the long-standing senior member of the gardening staff, Nicholas and his team. There is also a memorial bench in appreciation of the work done by  Daryl Plowes for the NTZ.

 

 

Before the luncheon on Saturday the 31st, the invited guests were treated to a delightful programme in the formal lounge, of well-loved oldies spanning the past 6 decades, by the Phoenix Choir of Harare, whose voices belted out such favourites as “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, “Fly me to the Moon”,  “Mr Sandman”, “Annie’s Song” and “Fiddler on the Roof” – to name a few, in the lounge, tastefully furnished and with blooming orchids to grace the tables.

                                            

The Phoenix Choir who entertained the guests before lunch

It is an amazing coincidence that, after a couple of botanical scares in the shade-house, the rare and beautiful Vanda lombokensis orchid named after Lady Virginia, IS BLOOMING for only the 3rd time in 60 years, right now….a fitting tribute to the philanthropist couple who collected the orchids and exotic plants which all still thrive in the gardens at La Rochelle today!

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                    Vanda lombokensis orchid

 

Nina Bauer’s many years of hard work and dedication was acknowledged on the occasion too, in the form of two, laminated and bound volumes of the glass signature panels with the biographies of MOST of the signatories. An enormous thank you to Nina and to Heather White, now in Australia, for their many hours, days, weeks, and now YEARS of work to get these volumes done in time for the 60th Anniversary of the Trust.  Nina Bauer inspecting her hard work in the 2 volumes of signatures off the glass window panels

 

Pre-lunch drinks served overlooking the gardens – fresh iced herbal teas, wines and sparkling wine,

with delicious snacks

Harvey Leared welcomed all the guests to La Rochelle and spoke of the National Trust and the developments over the past five years, which have been quite remarkable considering the ‘challenges’ one faces!

The luncheon beneath the trees in the gardens in the front of the house was a splendid menu with chicken liver pate followed by a sumptuous buffet with roast rolled beef, baked ham, pickled bream and a selection of tantalizing fresh salads and rolls, and baby potatoes in their jackets, with lashings of butter and fresh herbs from the kitchen garden

 

One can only imagine a content couple looking down on the event, perhaps from the tower window, and saying to one another how happy they were to see such a fitting tribute to their legacy being played out on the lawns below, under a rich cobalt blue and cloudless sky, in the gardens they both so lovingly engineered and nurtured.

Guy Cary, from the NTZ Nyanga Committee, who attended with Ms Gill Honeyman of World’s View, gave a great speech, likening the National Trust’s properties within Zimbabwe to a medieval crown, with it’s jewel-inlaid ermine and 3-pointed ‘crown’ of jewels, the most significant of which is the La Rochelle jewel in the crown of the NTZ!

Guy has been very familiar with the history of the National Trust and of the Eastern Districts area spanning a number of years and is a commendable speaker!  Guy spoke freely and easily of the history of La Rochelle and the generosity of the Courtaulds and of the eastern districts area in general. Being close to the Indian Ocean to the east, the area has a dynamic history dating back a few hundred years to the slave and gold and ivory traders plying the Indian Ocean up and down the east coast of Africa.

The gardens at this time of the year are looking superb, with many blooms to admire both in flower beds and on some of the trees.

A new succulent garden was officially opened to mark the occasion and a tree was planted to remember and commemorate the life of the late Gordon Addams who passed away very suddenly recently. Gordon was a long standing member of the Eastern Districts community having managed some of the top small hotels in the region for a number of years and lately, ‘Gordon’s’ in Mutare, until his death.

After lunch, the water-colour painting by Margi Grobelaar, which Margi had donated to the Trust some time ago, was auctioned with Des Becker ably filling the post of last-minute appointee of the position of auctioneer. Bidding was brisk with a more-than-expected and very generous winning bid from Gill Honeyman – a huge thanks to Gill!!!

Guided walks were arranged of the botanical gardens and orchid houses and also to the herb trials and the drying and packing shed.

On Sunday at lunchtime guests were treated to another, informal concert before lunch.

It is hoped that La Rochelle and the National Trust of Zimbabwe, will continue to welcome guests from near and far – and grow to develop the existing ties with INTO and INTO (Africa).

One of the many views one has of the tower from the front gardens

 

Compiled by Lin Goncalves

 

La Rochelle: Join Robbie Honey on a delightful journey around the Botanical Gardens and Learn about the Fascinating Courtauld History

The Trust is thrilled to share with you a video entitled: ‘La Rochelle: Robbie Honey’ that enjoyed its premier screening at the recent Trust’s 60th birthday celebrations held at La Rochelle where it was projected against the French style tower with a full moon behind.

Robbie, Floral Designer, Lecturer and Author of ‘The Accidental Botanist: The Structure of Plants Revealed’, passionately shares his botanical knowledge about the abundant flora growing in the grounds of La Rochelle.  He also explains the history of the estate and reveals some interesting old black and white photographs of the Courtauld’s taken in the UK and in Zimbabwe. The video shows magnificent sweeping aerial views of the house and estate made possible by drone footage.

The video opens with Robbie sitting on the sunny veranda of the house, now a boutique hotel, talking about the history of Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld who generously donated their estate to the Trust in 1972.   Robbie then walks around the formal lounge, courtyard and Lady Virginia’s private ‘Fantasy Room. He then invites you to take part in a delightful, guided journey around the 226 acre estate which was established with the professional help of the UK Horticulturist John Henry Mitchell, with exotic plants and trees gathered from all over the world.  Co-incidentally, Robbie is friendly with Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elsworthy who visited Zimbabwe in 2014 and redesigned the gardens.

As you will discover the estate has an exceptional botanical area and Dell that covers 20 acres of land both contain many fine specimens of exotic and indigenous species. Robbie’s tour includes the unique Orchid biome that is home to a large and diverse collection of exotic orchids that Sir Stephen collected from around the world including the Lady Virginia Orchid: the only in the world.

After the orchid collection Robbie moves on and chats to Kevin Martin who runs the commercial organic farming area consisting of 25 acres of trial beds of herbs being grown for teas including various mints, lemon balm and grass and thyme and petals such as sunflower and calendula and recently planted super grain foods like chia and quinoa.

We do hope that you enjoy watching this wonderful production by Media Matrix Productions, very kindly sponsored by Mr H. Leared for which the Trust is extremely grateful.

https:/vimeo.com/468854262

Far from the Madding Crowd

Mike Garden, of Softrite, recently visited La Rochelle Country House and we are pleased to share his feedback from his stay:

Hi All

Softrite still has quite a few loyal payroll customers in Manicaland so I drive down to Mutare from time to time to pay them a courtesy call to see if they need any enhancements to our software.

I always maintain that spring is the best time to be travelling anywhere in the Eastern Highlands: starting with Miombo woodlands covered with a dazzling array of ochre coloured Msasas in August; progressing to the verdant green-leafed deciduous trees in late September; then the lilac Jacarandas and cherry Flamboyants (non-indigenous / exotic) in October and November respectively.

La Rochelle Country House, situated in Penhalonga on the outskirts of Mutare is part of the National Trust of Zimbabwe and they are currently celebrating their 60th anniversary. So I decided to stay at La Rochelle for a couple of nights last week to check it out. The crisp mountain air along with that “Far from the madding crowd” feeling makes it the perfect place to relax either over a long weekend or at the end of a busy day in Mutare. La Rochelle have, arguably, the best orchid displays and aloe garden in the region and I woke up early on day 2 for a guided tour with the very competent and knowledgeable Peter. The botanical gardens have trees, aloes, cactuses and many other succulents from all over the world – and Peter knew both the English and Latin name for just about everyone.

 

Relaxing with a cup of tea and scones on the afternoon of my arrival, I sat for a while on the long, frontal veranda and read my book – all the while glancing at the pristine rose garden with young buds urgent to come into seasonal bloom. I always throw my golf clubs in the boot of my car when I travel to Mutare as I know I can just pitch up a little before 3pm on Wednesday at the nearby Hillside golf club and join a few mates for 9 holes of golf. The golf club is just 10 minutes away from La Rochelle and the course is in such good nick at the moment – thanks to Kevin and Billy.

If you are looking for something to do with your Covid bored kids and are happy to take a couple of days off then I would recommend you book a couple of rooms at La Rochelle – lots of hiking trails and some of the best bird life in the country. Just a 3 hour trip from Harare on good tarred roads. Ciao Mike Garden.

Annual Report: 2019 La Rochelle Estate

La Rochelle Estate

Country House and Spa

The La Rochelle gardens continue to amaze us with their beauty. Here pictures of the gardens and the rare and wonderful findings we see on a daily basis..               

The unique Lady Virginia orchid flowered again in late 2019. The orchid was discovered by Sir Stephen Courtauld on the eastern Java Islands during his travels there sometime before the start of the second world war. There have been no others like it found in the world and so Sir Stephen named the orchid, Vanda lombakensis Virginia Courtauld after his wife Virginia.

The orchid was taken by Sir Stephen back to England where it was kept in a glass house at Eltham Palace. It flowered once then during the second world war and survived when the glass house that it was in was bombed. A small piece of the plant was recovered and re potted. It was then brought to Zimbabwe when Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia moved to La Rochelle.
This is only the fifth time that it has flowered to our knowledge, the last time being in 2016 and before that in 1973.

“Garden to plate” – we love serving our guests fresh, organic vegetables from our garden.

Our main focus for 2019 was to expand the La Rochelle vegetable garden. We are now able to feed our guests fresh, organic, homegrown goodness and we are thrilled.

 

 

Herbal Tea Tastings have become a favourite activity for guests at the hotel where they get to taste fresh, healthy, herbal teas picked straight from the organic farm.

We hope to expand this further in 2020.

La Rochelle Organics

It has been a very busy time for La Rochelle Organics and the team continues to work hard to grow organic herbs of export quality.  The work continues to grow at a rapid pace in terms of field trials, expanding storage and processing operations, number of people employed, crops planted, hectares under croppings and so on. It is amazing what has been achieved.

The total area of crops under production in 2019 totaled 12.30 ha and consisted of the following varieties:

Crop La Rochelle Farm
Calendula 3.00ha
Melissa 2.30ha
Peppermint 1.20ha
Spearmint 1.50ha
Stinging Nettle 3.10ha
Forage sorghum – Compost 1.20ha
Total hectares under cropping 12.30ha

In the picture below you can see calendula, spearmint, stinging nettles and safflower.

Crops grown commercially in 2019 include the following:

 Stinging nettle organic

 

Initially it took time to establish and its potential was doubted. However, over time it was realised that it is a hungry feeder with a high irrigation requirement. Consequently both nutrient availability in the soil and water/irrigation methods was improved and it has since started performing very well.

Mint organic

This type of mint is the most challenging to grow in this area. It is the most susceptible to disease and plant stress. Growth problems that we have mentioned earlier in this report and are addressing with Melissa are:

  • A high Nematode count in year two of growth resulting in root damage.
  • A secondary infection of Fuserium and

Calendula Organic                         

Calendula is a good crop for our rotations. However, seed can be a challenge as we collect our own seed, and this reverts back over 2 to 3 seasons. As a result, we continually have to bring in fresh seed for planting. It also has a high labour requirement for harvesting. This next winter we will plant not only to reap petals, but also full flower heads as this is what the market is requiring.

Spearmint organic and peppermint organic

We have now been inoculating our planting material against Sclerotinia and Fusariumusing Trichoderma. We have noticed a major improvement on the disease pressure and tonnage harvested at first cut.

We have also been conducting trials on field mints provided by Martin Bauer. Samples of these have been sent and we understand that they do not fit the specific taste profile required by the customer. We are however keeping these in our parent plant stock if this should change in the future.

In addition to crop production Organic Africa has established a successful educational programme aimed at small scale farmers. The main subjects of study are ecology, sustainable farming and how to farm organically. The table below lists the training courses that were carried out in 2019:

Date of training Training covered Number of people trained Trainer
24.05.19 SOP Harvesting ,Drying and Cleaning vehicles 25 Kevin Martin
3-4.07.19 Mabagrown certification and organic standards 44 Doreen Ngwenyama
16.07.19 Spray Protocol SOP 10 Lindsay Reekie
16-18.08.19 Personnel Hygiene 34 Shingai Mabena
26.08.19 Introduction to Organic Standards 22 Doreen Ngwenyama
12.09.19 Fertilizer and plant protection products application 22 Kevin Martin
13.11.19 Toxic weeds and waste disposal 33 Shingai Mabena
16.11.19 Fire fighting training (Basic) 19 Alpha fire aid
09.12.19 Cleaning Procedures and Record Keeping   9 Zviko Machinga
09.12.19 Seed/seedlings traceability and record kepping   9 Lindsay Reekie

Outlook at La Rochelle Organics

For 2020 we are confident to hit production targets.

Trials are still being conducted on new varieties of products as well as organic pest and disease controls. Also biofumigant green crops have been included in the rotations as well as special consideration to biodiversity in the soils and on the farms. Composting operations are planned to increase to 1500 tons this year.

We have started using the new processing machinery and previous contamination and quality problems seem to be resolved. We are also increasing our drying capacity with the increased production expected.

 

 

Annual Report April 2017 – March 2018

   

In late 2017 a unique Public Private Partnership (PPP) was established and the Trust signed a 50 year Notarial lease for La Rochelle for the establishment of the following:

  • Agricultural Training centre
  • Accommodation for training centre and
  • Expansion of country house

The PPP is in synergy with the vision of the NTZ and La Rochelle Organics (Organic Africa) and their business partners have a very good reputation for looking after the environment and being socially responsible in their business operations.  Needless to say the project presents an exciting opportunity for ensuring the economic viability of La Rochelle, training and supporting small scale farmers, caring for the environment and raising the profile of the NTZ regionally.

Based on the positive feedback in response to the new management of the property and the upgrading that has taken place, there is enormous potential for growth. This past year has been a busy and eventful one for La Rochelle and we are very happy with how far we have come in working towards our end goals and vision for the “La Rochelle Project”.

The property consists of three main sections: The hotel and Beauty Spa, the grounds and the new organic herb farm. Here are some of the highlights of the year:

Country House Boutique Hotel and Beauty Spa

  • A research programme was undertaken in December 2017 and January 2018 to determine attitudes to and understanding of the property in order to obtain information that is useful in planning longer-term future strategy for the venue;
  • Occupancy greatly improved with an average occupancy rate of 40%;
  • The hotel successfully hosted the following events:
  • 10 conferences with top corporates such as Old Mutual, TelOne, ZIMPLATS, Pearl Properties, IDBZ and more;
  • Bird courses, vintage car rally, art retreat, jazz evening, food and wine pairings, educational workshops and four weddings;
  • A series of musical events were performed by the Peterhouse instrumental group and the Iona Jones Singers of the Phoenix Choir;
  • A thatched rondavel was upgraded to house the beauty Spa adjacent to the swimming pool area.

The treatments on offer have been reorganized and the spa now offers a wider range that includes:  Swedish Massage, Hot Stone Massage, Indian Head Massage, Facials and a Deluxe Manicure/Pedicure.

 

African Apothecary products that are 100% organic and natural products are used for treatments.

  • Work on identifying and recording the signatures etched on the famous windows continues, the result will be of great historical significance and will result in a publication;
  • The well-known Tjaart Walraven, famous South African chef and judge on the popular show SA Bake Off, came to train the catering staff and new menus;
  • The coffee shop area was renovated and extended outside on the patio area;
  • High-tea’s in the garden or lunch in the Chinese Pergoda were introduced in the 20ha arboretum, a tranquil venue  set amongst exotic trees with a breathtaking view towards the forested mountains on the Mozambique border.

Estate Grounds

  • Further improvements were completed to the orchid house;
  • The very rare Lady Virginia Orchid flowered again. It flowered for the first time in 2016 after 40 years of not flowering. The Courtauld’s discovered the rare species and kept it in their greenhouse at Eltham Palace, London. When their greenhouse was destroyed in the Second World War, only a tiny piece of the orchid remained which miraculously they were able to identify and save and it is now on show in the Orchid House;

  • Visitors are enjoying exploring the extensive grounds that are continually being improved upon;
  • New trails have been established for hiking, biking and horse riding;
  • Volley ball and croquet facilities were created;
  • A petting farm was opened;
  • The dam was restored; children can paddle in the dam, go fishing and boating;
  • The large swimming pool was restored.

Organic Herb Farm

The herb farm training centre has seen the establishment of 10 hectares of ‘field test’ of organic herbs and the trials are well on their way and fast expanding. Herbs that have been planted include Lemon Verbena, Peppermint, Chilli,  Chamomile, Lemon balm, Fennel, Stinging Nettle, Safflower, Calendula, Caraway, Tulsi, Basil, Thyme, Dandelion, two varieties of Ginger, and three varieties of Turmeric Anise  and many have seen their first harvest. Visitors to the hotel can now wader down to the farm and pick fresh herbs to make a cup of herbal tea or pick a few to garnish a sun downer drink with.

The trials were conducted by Mr Dominik Collenberg who holds a Master’s Degree in Organic Farming and Master’s Degree in Economics of Development which means that he has the expertise to implement the project. He is the Director of Organic Africa a company who focus on organic production and are the only company certified in organic fair trade products in Zimbabwe. They are also the only company in southern Africa whereby its small scale farmers have their land certified and so are able to produce high quality herbs.

   

Melissa                                                                       Chilli

     

Calendula growing under acacia tree                    Lemon Verbena

   

                                                                                    Fennel

Organic Africa works extensively with all their producers to help them attain Ethical Biotrade, Organic and Fair Trade certification. An export market was secured for the crops by a leading herbal tea producer based in Europe.

Since September 2017, the farm has trained some 3,889 farmers (2377 female and 1512 male).  47 of them comprised 4 farm managers and 42 contract farmers.

Future plans include the building of a regional agricultural college to train small scale farmers, mainly women, on how to grow crops without using chemicals or fertilisers and how to make compost according to strict organic global regulations.

We are proud to report that the year has been a busy and successful one overall.

 

 

 

 

La Rochelle – Events and news – May 5, 2017

Please email reservations@larochellecentre.com or call us on (04) 497213 / 0714 610 803 to find out costs and more detail.
In 2016 La Rochelle hosted a number of events such as bird courses, vintage car rally, art retreat, jazz evening, food and wine pairings and educational workshops. Here are a few recent photos from some of those events:

La Rochelle – Spirit of Place Statement


Experience both the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of a country estate, and feel the passion held by Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld to settle here and literally ‘put down roots’ as the saying goes. The house and grounds are what has made La Rochelle a lasting treasure to be enjoyed in perpetuity by the nation of Zimbabwe and its visitors. It will forever evoke images of a time in history when this very generous titled couple, who combined English ancestry and Italian and Hungarian ancestries as well, adopted not only this country, but also its people and took both to their hearts.
Their public-spirited generosity, and their enduring interest in promoting the various arts, music and culture, as well as a deep desire to improve the welfare of the lower echelons of the population, means that they will always be remembered for their generous largesse towards Zimbabwe even though these contributions were always made very quietly and modestly and never openly and flamboyantly.
Their foresight in donating La Rochelle to the National Trust now enables one to not only spend a weekend or more inside their very home, but also to walk the pathways so lovingly designed and created by Sir Stephen and his massive team of gardeners and planners, and to relax for a while in a haven of peace and beauty and marvel at the extensive collection of rare orchids.
Stop for a while in The Dell, close your eyes, drift away to the late 1950’s era and just pretend that you are one of Sir Stephen’s invited guests for the weekend, the way he would have wanted it to be. Breathe in the scents surrounding you through this beautiful garden and think of Lady Virginia and her kind and generous nature as she busied herself for the day with the local ladies and their knitting and crotchet projects that she funded. Picture in your mind the soft tunes drifting down from the house from piano and violin as the invited musicians ready their instruments for the evening.
Take the time to enjoy this very special home and garden remembering that the Courtauld’s former home is here for all future generations to be able to admire and enjoy.

National Trust Tribute to Mr Darrel Plowes

darrel-at-la-rochelle

It is with the deepest regret that we note the passing of Darrel Plowes, in Mutare, on Wednesday 19th October 201 aged 91. Darrel has been an invaluable friend of the National Trust of Zimbabwe for a many, many years and a great source of information and of assistance through his long friendship with Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld of La Rochelle when he worked with them on many projects in the early years of La Rochelle.  His knowledge of the La Rochelle property was a great help to the Trust during the recent refurbishment programme and we will be eternally grateful for his precious input over the years.

Darrel’s long career before retirement was in agriculture, natural resource management and extension where his contributions were substantial. His extensive interests covered an incredibly wide range of subjects in the fields of natural history, agronomy, entomology, botany and ornithology, to name just a few. The Trust was truly honoured and fortunate to have as an active member, one of the greatest all-round naturalists of Zimbabwe.

Darrel was an authority on stapeliads, orchids, butterflies, birds and bird’s eggs. Several new species have been named in his honour; these include grasses, aloes, a butterfly, legless lizard, mole-rat and a new sub-species of birds.  His plant specimens at the National Herbarium are among the best preserved described and recorded. We are all richer for having known Darrel Plowes and we give thanks for the wonderfully inspiring life of this man and his love of all creation.  Even in the last few weeks of his life, when Darrel was in great pain while sitting at the computer he took the time to write to the Trust on matters which were of concern to him.

On behalf of our Executive Council and members of the Trust, we extend our deepest sympathy to all Darrel’s family and to his companion, Nina. We will ensure a suitable tribute is recorded for Darrel as an acknowledgement and appreciation for all he has done and achieved in his lifetime.

Here are some of our Executive Committee members’ comments:

Darrel will be sadly missed and leave a big void in our community. Darrel was an incredible font of knowledge in many areas scientific, historical, and archaeological, in fauna and flora and this list is by no means exhaustive. He was extremely passionate about Zimbabwe and the Trust and its activities and especially its Mutare properties and in particular the La Rochelle Estate, having known the Courtaulds personally. Our thoughts and prayers go to all his family and close friends at this difficult time.                           David Scott

He was one of Zimbabwe’s botanical giants and one of the most knowledgeable all-round naturalists I have ever had the pleasure and honour to meet. He may now have ended his never finishing work but will always keep on inspiring me and many others for the remainder of our lives. Whether professional scientist or amateur enthusiast we owe a great debt to his unrelenting search for knowledge and understanding of the natural world.                                                                      Rob Burrett

Darrel was also a key link between the present and past of La Rochelle both with the Courtauld Family and the botanicals, particularly the orchids. It was perhaps symbolic that the Lady Virginia Orchid which last flowered in 1973 just after Lady Virginia’s death, came out into flower just before Darrel passed away some 43 years later!  Fortunately Jannie Martin took the orchid up to show Darrel in hospital.                                    Harvey Leared

Darrel was an incredible man and a true gentleman, he was an inspiration to us all and he will sorely missed not least by myself.  I was so privileged to have spent time with him over the years and to have been part of the interview and video event that we undertook with Roger Fairlie a couple of years back at La Rochelle.  It is our intention to make a film on La Rochelle with Darrel’s interview included.  It will be a fitting tribute.                       Sharon Waterworth

Darrel, as David and Sharon have noted, had so many and varied talents and achievements some of which may not generally be known.  My brother in Australia wrote that he first knew Darrel as Head of Agricultural Extension for communal areas in Manicaland before he became senior in the Dept. of Agriculture in Mutare.  Later he rose to a senior level in the Ministry. When he went overseas to do a Masters in Ecology Darrel gave him a number of slides showing trials on soil and water conservation, and trials and demos in communal and commercial farming areas. These always impressed the viewers and I am reminded of the brilliant photographer he was.

Darrel told me how he taught the first groups of Nyanga Weavers the various plants to use for the natural dying of wool. We are all the richer for having known Darrel and give thanks that he was able to share his knowledge and love of this country and of nature to so many.                 Edone Ann Logan

We have been so honoured to have had Darrel as a friend and mentor; he was a man of many parts and always with the Trust at heart. So very sorry Nina for your loss.   We are all the poorer for his passing. My condolences to all his family and friends, he will be sorely missed                                Fira Bache

What terribly sad news. Darrel will be sorely missed and leave a deep void in the field of ornithology and botany, two of his many passions. What an amazing font of knowledge he was and such a highly respected expert in these fields he dedicated his life to.                        Lin Gonçalves

I write to convey my condolences to you, the family members, on the passing on of Darrel Plowes. I came to know him in person in 2014 and always kept in touch by email. On 8 April 2016 we sat at the same table at La Rochelle and touched on many issues including my request for him to bring back on the market an authoritative book on ‘Gardening in Zimbabwe.’ His response was in the affirmative.  God has his way of doing things!  Darrel will certainly be remembered and missed by the NTZ Community. May His Soul Rest in Peace.                                            Elliot Mugamu

The NTZ have happily accepted Darrel’s family request that a memorial bench be placed in the orchid area at La Rochelle. The bench will allow visitors to pause and reflect on the beauty of the orchids. The orchid area was a place that had special significance to Darrel since it was Sir Stephen who inspired Darrel’s fondness for orchids, and in turn Darrel has very kindly donated the balance of his small collection back to La Rochelle.  This is wonderful news for the NTZ and typifies Darrel’s love of La Rochelle and a sign will be erected to indicate the “Kind donation of these orchids by Darrel Plowes”.

The NTZ is also planning for a small memorial stone to be placed at La Rochelle as a specific tribute to highlight Darrell’s incredible commitment and contribution to the NTZ and especially to La Rochelle, not just lately but over many decades. The stone will be unveiled in December 2016.

For the benefit of future visitors to La Rochelle the NTZ will also compile a one page flyer outlining Darrel’s achievements and contributions to the NTZ, the document will be part of the long and varied history of this important property.

 

Rare Orchid flowers for the first time since 1973

The 17th October was a historic day for the Trust and in particular for the La Rochelle property when a rare orchid flowered on the 17th October 2106, this is only the fourth time that it has flowered to our knowledge, the last time being in 1973 so this is a cause for celebration.

The orchid has quite a unique history attached to it: it was found by Sir Stephen Courtauld on one of the eastern Java Islands during his travels there sometime before the start of the second world war. It is thought to be a natural hybrid as there have been no others like it found. It is a unique Vanda orchid different to other lombakensis. Sir Stephen named the orchid, Vanda lombakensis Virginia Courtauld after his wife Lady Virginia Courtauld.

The orchid was taken by Sir Stephen back to England where it was kept in a glass house at Eltham Palace. It flowered once then during the second world war and survived when the glass house that it was in was bombed. A small piece of the plant was recovered and re potted. It was then brought to Southern Rhodesia when Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia moved to La Rochelle near Umtali, present day Mutare.

The Trust would like to thank its dedicated and professional ground estate team headed by Mr Kevin Martin for making this piece of history happen.  We hope you enjoy the photographs of the rare and beautiful orchid below.

lady-virginnia-orchid

 

single-flower

 

whole-orchid

La Rochelle Update August 2016

The property continues to gain much support and praise from all visitors and work is underway to organise various events to attract a wider range of visitors who will view this property not only for its aesthetic appeal but also it’s historical importance for the people of Zimbabwe.

For all enquiries and bookings please contact:

!NL2

With generous support from a donor, the tropical area in the Dell has been cleaned up and the waterways have been cleared and the section is looking amazing

NL3

Please read this very good account from a recent visitor:-

https://wolfganghthome.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/zimbabwes-eastern-highlands-continue-to-amaze/